Learning and Using AP Style

In my profession, AP style, the grammar and writing style guidelines produced by the Associated Press, is something that has become second nature to me. I notice AP style errors in menus, on billboards and even in e-mails between friends. When conversing in casual conversation via e-mail or social media platforms, I have to actually tell my mind to STOP thinking in terms of AP style.

But it recently occurred to me how foreign AP style can seem when you are first learning to use it. I realized this when I was helping a colleague put together a speech on the basics of news release writing. In her speech, she touched on the importance of using correct grammar and introduced AP style to her audience. I quickly remembered how much I struggled to learn AP style in college; I spent countless hours in the library learning funny rules that seemed to contradict all that I had been taught in school. For example, AP style dictates that no comma should come before a conjunction when items are listed in a simple series. I remember thinking that I would NEVER get the hang of AP style, but I did.

There are literally tons of AP style exercises and quizzes online. If you are trying to learn AP style, using these resources is a good start. Purdue’s online writing lab is a resource that I found very useful when I was first learning. I would also suggest buying the latest edition of the AP Stylebook in hard copy. While they do offer an online version that you can obtain by purchasing a subscription, the hard copy might be the easiest way to initially learn the basics of AP style. Once you have it down, the online version is the easiest way to keep up-to-date on AP style changes (and yes, the Associated Press changes up the rules and makes new additions quite frequently).

So why is it so important to use AP style? Because reporters use AP style, and if you are trying to get your news release coverage, using AP style will increase your chances. Think about it: reporters receive TONS of news releases daily. Sometimes, the contents of your news release will be repurposed in the news story. If your news release is already in AP style, this saves time on the reporters’ end. Just think: if a reporter has to spend 20 minutes proofing your news release and putting it into AP style, he may opt to move onto the next story instead.

Of course, using AP style alone will not guarantee your news release will gain coverage in the media, but it’s a good start. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most commonly used AP style tips for news release writing at PRBrandBuilder. They can be a great “quick and easy” resource. Sign up here to check them out!

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